Forkfuls of charity
Eating well and supporting a good cause come together more and more frequently in China as charities find that food lovers will open their hearts— and their wallets— for a great meal. reports.
As I dig into a platter of Korean barbecue at a new Beijing restaurant, Jim Boyce is in a bar a few blocks away, enjoying Belgian beer and “liar’s dice”. At her Shunyi home, Allison Cooke is dreaming of tasty gingerbread houses studded with gumdrops, the roofs made “snowy” with thick white icing.
What such local foodies have in common — besides a rather well-developed fondness for good food and drink — is finding ways to combine our appetites with charity. Proceeds from the “Korean tapas” meal being wolfed down by 80 guests at the justopened Sulyi restaurant will support refugeeswhoarrive in Greece with literally nothing but the clothes they are wearing. “Maovember” events organized by Boyce and others will generate funds for Chinese orphans. Cooke’s gingerbread fantasy — and plenty of hot mulled wine and a freshly roasted whole pig — will be served up at the German Christmas bazaar in late November, which generates hundreds of thousands of yuan for disadvantaged children and families in China.
Christmas bazaars go back 400 years in Germany, but traditions like that — especially those that marry food and fundraising — are much newer in theMiddle Kingdom.
The idea, however, has been embraced quickly. Chi Fan for Charity, in Beijing and Hong Kong on Nov 5 and in Shanghai onNov 12, will attract hundreds to some of the top restaurants in those cities to raise money for those less fortunate.
Chi Fan for Charity, a modern take onthe traditional gala charity dinner, invites local personalities to host a table at one of the city’s top restaurants. Hosts invite nine friends to purchase tickets at their table, priced from 500 to 1,500 yuan ($75-$224) per person depending on the restaurant. After the dinner in each city, guests and supporters are invited to an after-party where people mingle and share their dining experiences.
Meanwhile, the Italian embassy and the Italian Chamber of Commerce are organizing restaurant dinners around China next month to benefit earthquake victims in central Italy.
“A Future for Amatrice” has a Facebook page, a special fundraising bank account through the end of November, and a network of more than 50 restaurants in China that have joined the global campaign.
“Thanks to the great generosity of the Italian restaurateurs it is already having a great success,” says Ambassador Ettore Sequi, who kicked Kristin Lum, off the program in Beijing last month with chefs from Beijing, Tianjin and Qingdao. He’s confident in the power of food, eager to promote “an important charity initiative through one of our strengths in the world: Italian cuisine”.
The results can be significant.
Chi Fan for Charity, founded in 2009 byMichael Crain with a mission of giving back to the Beijing community, has so far donated 4.2 million yuan to local beneficiaries, with 100 percent of table proceeds going directly to designated charities. This year’s campaign will support the Dandelion School for migrant children and the Starfish Project, a social enterprise that provides trafficked and exploited women and their children with shelter, counseling, access to healthcare, educational opportunities, child education grants and vocational training.
The German holiday bazaar has raised hundreds of thousands of yuan for various charities in its 21-year history, while Maovember bar events took off like a rocket last year, netting more than 80,000 yuan — enough to pay for more than 100 cataract surgeries in rural China. This year’s beneficiaries are Library Project for migrant schools and Goodworks, an organization that provides vocational training for orphans and adults with mental disabilities.
More modest efforts proved sustainable, too.
This weekend’s Beijing Foodies benefit at Sulyi not only gave guests a chance to see a sleek new restaurant ahead of its formal opening on Nov 8, it raised more than 7,600 yuan from the 80 guests who attended.
Beijing Foodies was founded several years ago by XiXi Cheng. It’s currently run by dining blogger Kristin Lum, who took it over about three years ago. The monthly dinners support a new charity each time. “We’re always up for newdining adventures and keen to support community events,” says Lum.
“You’ve got to eat anyway, so why not,” says one regular. “I’ve been coming for years. You meet different people every time, have a great meal for just 100 yuan, and support lots of people who really need help.
“There are people escaping have sex-trafficking, or ISIS, or who have gotten death threats from the Taliban,” says Brian Germain of the Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, where he volunteered this summer in Lesvos, Greece. Forks stop moving as Germain describes meeting a man who had to swim for nine hours, holding his small daughter the whole time, after a boat built for 20 but loaded with 60 capsized.
Such stories and causes turn a night of good food into food for thought. For more and more victims of horrific circumstances, the two are coming together very often.
“I like to know that I’m giving to others while I’m enjoying my currywurst at the German Christmas bazaar,” says Shunyi resident Cooke.
“But I have to admit, it’s a great party, too,” she says.
“There are beautiful crafts for sale and lovely Christmas music to enjoy. Now that the weather is turning colder, in my mind I can already smell the hot mulled wine, the whole roast pig and those delicious sausages.”
We’re always up for new dining adventures and keen to support community events.” organizer Beijing Foodies
Top: Maovember raises cash for disadvantaged families with bar games, donations, pin sales, wine tastings and more. Above left: Meatballs for charity: Diners get an exclusive deal and a party atmosphere at the monthly Beijing Foodies events. Above right: Chi Fan for Charity organizes tables of 10 merrymakers for its fundraising events in three Chinese cities.